By Everett Goldner
In Alexander, we put emphasis on the exhale, and take the position that the inhale can happen by itself, and that this is a healthy and natural way to breathe.
I have an interest in spirituality, and this past weekend, I was given a document that dates to two or three millennia before the birth of Christ. It is a dialogue between the Hindu god Shiva and his consort, Devi. Devi wants to know how existence appears to Shiva, and so, in fine rhetoric, says:
O Shiva, what is your reality?
What is this wonder-filled universe?
What constitutes seed?
What is the life beyond form pervading forms?
How may we enter it fully, above space and time, names and descriptions?
Let my doubts be cleared!
In response to this, Shiva gives Devi 112 ways to “center” the self and to understand the true nature of the self and of the universe. Some of the ways deal with emotion, some of them deal with imagination, some of them deal with sound or music, some with consideration of people or of objects. And a number of them deal with the breath.
To compare what Shiva has to say about the breath to an Alexander perspective is interesting. Shiva says:
“Radiant one, this experience may dawn between two breaths. After breath comes in (down) and just before turning up (out) – the beneficence.
“As breath turns from down to up, and again as breath curves from up to down – through both these turns realize.
“Or, whenever inbreath and outbreath fuse, at that instant touch the energyless energy-filled center.
“Or, when breath is all out (up) and stopped of itself, or all in (down) and stopped – in such universal pause, one’s small self vanishes. This is difficult only for the impure.
“When in worldly activity, keep attentive between the two breaths, and so practicing, in a few days be born anew.
“With utmost devotion, center on the two junctions of breath and know the knower.
The things said here seem to be implicit in the Alexander view of breath; that the inhale will happen by itself could be said to be a means of “touching the energyless energy-filled center.” (These are opposing concepts, of course, but one lesson of Shiva and the other Hindu gods is to transcend opposites and so move into a higher state or a higher sense of self.) Is this “center” some actual location on the body? Well – my guess is that, if we were involved in intensive breath-work, we would decide that the solar plexus is the “center”, since it is the region between the lungs and the diapgragm. But Shiva may also mean that by “fusing” the breath, the entire body can become a “center” or become centered, more alive, more realized. The idea is similar to his suggestion in the previous passage, to “realize” through both “turns” of the breath. We might ask: realize what? But no answer is given because the answer is: to realize the self, realize the spirit, or realize whatever one personally needs to realize in any given moment, in order to become centered or to accomplish “worldly” goals.
Each of these lines could probably be compared in-depth with the goals of Alexander work, these posts are meant to be short.